Cinema News and Reviews for the Rest of Us

DVD Round-Up: What I’ve Been Watching

Me And Orson Welles

One of the blander and more emotionally distanced of Richard Linklater’s films, but one that’s lifted by a powerhouse performance from Christian McKay as Orson Welles.  He’s uncanny as the legendary wunderkind, and he manages to bring life to the character without simply relying on our caricatured memories of the famously obnoxious and famously brilliant artist.  Zach Efron is serviceable as the doe-eyed lead, but he’s not given much to do with a shallow part.  McKay, on the other hand, should have gotten an Oscar nomination.  (3 STARS)

The Killer Inside Me

I never read Jim Thompson’s famous noir novel, but I can see how it could be a brilliant foray into a truly disturbed mind.  On the screen, however, the director’s lack of distinct style and his cold distance from the characters make the brutality and misogyny onscreen just lie there with nothing to jusitfy their extremism.  The fist-beating of Jessica Alba is as brutal as rumored, and a game Casey Affleck just can’t do as much as he’d like with a potentially fascinating character.  The result of all this is a beautifully shot, well acted piece of pop trash.  (2 STARS)

Youth In Revolt

I liked this film way more than I thought I would.  Michael Cera’s dweeb schitck was growing stale, but the script knows just what to do with it and the film takes Cera’s character downs paths that are constantly surprising.  This is a crazy film, and all of the pieces don’t exactly hold together as well as I’m sure they did in the novel, but the entire runtime is entertaining and marked by some refreshingly sincere teen-movie performances.  (4 STARS)

Crazy Heart

A decent little 3-Star film overall, but raised up a notch by the cinematic force of nature otherwise known as Jeff Bridges.  He owns every second he’s on screen, which I believe is the entire film.  That Oscar was very much deserved, and I can’t wait to see what he does with the character of Rooster Cogburn in the Coens’ remake of True Grit.  (4-STARS)

Diary of a Wimpy Kid

This a “kids movie,” but I enjoyed the hell out of it.  The film has an infectious energy for its first half hour, and though the plot kinda stagnates as it goes on, the proceedings are kept engaging by a compelling 6th grade protagonist.  He’s much more complex than your average kiddie film lead, and certainly more shaded than the other cut-outs in the film, and it’s both painful and very funny to watch his early encounters with the cruelty of expectations being slammed head-first into reality.  A charming and lively kids’ flick.  (3  STARS).

The White Ribbon

Doctoral theses will be written about this film in coming years, so it seems fruitless for me to try to flesh it all out here.  For such a small-scale and quiet film, there’s just so much at play, and the themes are some of the most disturbingly profound of director Michael Haneke’s career.  Not to mention it’s one of the most beautifully shot black-and-white films in decades.  Something is very wrong in this little German town in the years just before World War I, and a dark societal upheaval is taking place underneath the surface that will threaten the entire world twenty years later.  And Haneke doesn’t shy away in interviews from theorizing a similar trajectory for our current culture.  Unnerving stuff that will churn in you long after the film is over.  (5 STARS)

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